In this article, I present the case of Clementine Barnabet, an Afro-Creole teenager who was arrested in 1911 and convicted in 1912 for allegedly committing “Voodoo murders” in southwest Louisiana and Texas. The press, the police, and other Louisiana officials, along with an author employed by the Louisiana Writers’ Project in the 1930s, used racialized and sexualized hyperbole to deem Barnabet a participant in a “Voodoo cult,” purportedly called the Church of the Sacrifice. Moreover, in their quest for information about Barnabet and her beliefs, white Americans also imagined a monolithic Black religion—specifically, a sensationalized Voodoo religion—practiced by all people of African descent in the region regardless of their self-identification as Christians or practitioners of conjure, or both. Thus, I propose reviewing Barnabet’s case not as an attempt to determine her guilt or innocence, but rather as a means of deconstructing white American eroticized racial fantasy in the production of a normative American Christian religion and the concurrent misrepresentation of Black religions.
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Research Article| May 01 2023
“A Very Queer Case”: Clementine Barnabet and the Erotics of a Sensationalized Voodoo Religion
Ahmad Greene-Hayes, Harvard Divinity School
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Nova Religio (2023) 26 (4): 58–84.
Ahmad Greene-Hayes; “A Very Queer Case”: Clementine Barnabet and the Erotics of a Sensationalized Voodoo Religion. Nova Religio 1 May 2023; 26 (4): 58–84. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/nr.2023.26.4.58
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